Hidden Gem of the Week: Catherine or How I Learned to Love Puzzles
Moving away from hand held games, this week’s hidden gem was released for PS3 and XBOX360 in 2011 by Atlus. The game is Catherine, and was on many top charts in 2011 for its intriguing story and challenging puzzles. Recently after playing around with Code of Princess, I was going through my music and stumbled upon some of the great tracks from the Catherine Sound Disc. Instantly I was reminded of how much I enjoyed that game and the countless hours me and fellow Velocity Gamer writer Lucy spent trying to unlock all the possible endings to such a great game. Catherine is really hard to describe, as it is a truly unique game. While it may have been on the tops of many charts in 2011, I still feel like not enough people have given such a great gem a spin. Before I get into the meat and bones of the aspects that make this game great, I must say it is most definitely an “Adult” oriented game. It’s not raunchy or full blown pornographic, but the majority of the themes and discussions are of a serious adult nature. They are the type of conversations about love, life, and the pursuit of happiness that I myself find talking about to my other adult friends.
The story of Catherine centers around a man named Vincent. He is just a normal guy, whose life seems to be going nowhere. He’s being pressured by his girlfriend Katherine to get married as she feels her biological clock ticking. He has his doubts and that night while drinking with his friends at a bar called “The Stray Sheep”, he meets the alluring Catherine. After the “fateful” meeting, Vincent begins to have nightmares about climbing a tower. Soon he must find out what is the source for the “deadly” nightmares as well as juggle between the two women now in his life; does he pick the sexy and cute Catherine or stay faithful to his girlfriend of five years Katherine? The story of Catherine is so great. It has many relatable characters present and the main protagonist is so relatable. As an adult many of Vincent’s doubts and fears have been present at one point or another in my relationships. As the game goes on, I found myself less and less able to take breaks as I needed to find out what was going on. When the game finally began to start revealing major plot points, I found my jaw dropping and began to root for Vincent even more. Not only does this game do an excellent job at telling a story, Vincent’s nightmares are quite challenging game-play wise.
The majority of the game-play takes place in Vincent’s nightmares and “The Stray Sheep” bar. In the nightmare you try to climb these towers of movable blocks (emphasis on try) and one wrong step or block placement means Vincent could die. There are many ways in which the protagonist could meet an unpleasant end, some of which include falling, exploding, straight up murdered, and being crushed. The easier modes have an undo option and are a little more forgiving. The faster a player scales a tower the more points they are awarded. At the end of every tower level is a rest stop where players talk to the sheep men, save, or buy items. When a player is ready to continue, they must first do a confessional, which affects Vincent’s karma. Karma effects Vincent’s internal thoughts and is also used to determine which ending the player gets. It was fun to make Vincent a total dick one playthrough and then a genuinely nice guy at the wrong place at the wrong time, just to hear the differences of Vincent’s internal monologue. At the end of the night the player goes against some “boss”, which is usually an internal fear (omg the baby scared the @#&* out of me). The other side of Catherine‘s game-play revolves around “The Stray Sheep” bar. Here players learn more about various aspects of the story by speaking with other bar patrons and answering texts from the two women. How you respond effects Vincent’s Karma as well. (Catherine and Katherine’s text pics change at certain points depending on the endings you’ve unlocked.) The player can also wash Vincent’s face to reveal a hint about the upcoming nightmare, as well as get smashed on alcohol. One of the fun aspects of the game involves the trivia you get for drinking 3 drinks of a particular type (getting smashed helps you in the nightmare), and plenty of times I found myself saying good to know that. With all that’s been said I am barely scratching the surface of what Catherine has to offer.
Seriously if you have not checked out Catherine yet, I suggest you do so. While it may not appeal to everyone, it is truly a fantastic game that deserves to played. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to attend my weekly psychotherapy session to help me cope with my nightly terrors involving a baby chasing me while climbing a tower in my underwear.